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The Rhinoceros Party of Canada may have been seen as a 'joke' party, in much the way as Screaming Lord Sutch's Monster Raving Loony party, but they were in fact a registered party in Canada from about 1960 - 1990. Proclaiming to bring 'mock' back to 'democracy', the Rhinos brought a sense of humour to the modern political scene - something which is sorely missing in most governments.
The Rhinoceros Party's basic credo was to 'promise nothing', although in fact they often promised outlandishly impossible schemes designed to amuse and entertain the voting public. The Rhinos were started in 1963 by Doctor Jacques Ferron, a famous separatist writer. The rhinoceros was an appropriate symbol for a political party since politicians, by nature, are 'thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted, can move fast as hell when in danger, and have large, hairy horns growing out of the middle of their faces'.
The party also claimed to be spiritual descendants of a Brazilian rhinoceros who had been elected member of Satilde;o Paulo's city council in the 1950s. They listed Cornelius the First, a rhino from the Granby Zoo east of Montreal as its leader.
Rhino Party's Platform
Bryan Gold of the Rhinoceros Party once described the party platform as 'two feet high and made of wood'. Candidate Ted 'not-so' Sharp ran in Flora MacDonald's Ontario riding with the campaign slogan Fauna, not flora, promising to give fauna equal representation. Ted was also quoted as saying:
If elected, I promise to never have an abortion.You can imagine why this statement was quite ridiculous.
Another candidate, Michel Rivard, summed up the party's platform quite clearly during free air time:
I have but two things to say to you: 'Celery' and 'sidewalk.' Thank you, good night.
Perhaps their most well-known platform was the promise to break every promise they made, which they claim has been copied and put into execution by the mainstream parties. They also promised that, if elected, they would immediately demand a recount.
Rhino Claims, Promises, and Blatant Lies
During the duration of the Rhino party, many claims, promises, and the like were made - most of which were completely impossible. Here are some select promises.
Moving the Rocky Mountains one metre west as a 'make-work' project.
Alternatively, tearing down the Rocky Mountains so that Albertans could see the Pacific sunset.
Repealing the law of gravity.
Providing higher education by building taller schools.
Building sloping roads and bicycle paths across the country so that Canadians could 'coast from coast to coast'.
Breeding a mosquito that would only hatch in January so that 'the little buggers will freeze to death'.
Putting the national debt on Visa.
Painting Canada's coastal sea limits so that Canadian fish would know where they were at all times.
Making Canadians stronger by putting steroids in the water.
Replacing the Canadian Armed Forces with clones of Vladislav Tretiak.
Adopting the British system of driving on the left; this was to be gradually phased in over five years with large trucks first, then buses, eventually including small cars and bicycles last.
Selling the Canadian Senate at an antique auction in California.
Of course, this is just a small sampling. If you're looking for a good satirical laugh, Google it.
Success, or, Failing at That, Failure.
Understandably, the Rhinoceros party saw little political success during its run. They disbanded in 1993, when they chose to boycott that year's federal election due to new rules that deregistered any political party that did not run candidates in at least 50 ridings at a cost of $1,000 per candidature. It is more likely that they chose to boycott because they had no money, rather than they chose to boycott because they found it morally wrong.
François Gourd, a prominent Rhino, later started another political movement, The Entartistes. The Entartistes attracted attention in the 1990s by smacking cream pies in the faces of various Canadian politicians.
Other former Rhinos formed the Lemon party, which enjoyed even less success than the Rhinos. Recently, the Absolutely Absurd Party has attempted to revive the traditions of political satire that the Rhinoceros Party originated. This new group, however, is related to the Rhinos only in spirit.
During 2001, veteran Rhinoceros Party organizer Brian 'Godzilla' Salmi, who received his nickname because of the Godzilla suit he wore while campaigning, revived the Rhinoceros Party to contest the British Columbia provincial election. Some pranks were pulled, some airtime was earned, but by the time the election rolled around, a prospective Rhino did not even appear on the ballot. They claimed the $1,000 candidate registration fee was a 'financial hardship', and the party once again disbanded shortly after.
Only once did the party receive more than 1% of the popular vote - they received 1.01% in fact. Their greatest political achievement, it was earned in 1980. 121 candidates were nominated; they received a total of 110,286 votes.
The End of the Majestic Rhino
It is unlikely that we shall see the Rhinoceros Party of Canada return anytime soon. They were truly brilliant comedians, and, like most comedians, have no money at all, which prevents them from doing much of anything.
However, the spirit of the Rhino lives on, in every Canadian who is ever at one time or another sick of the way politics is being done, which is probably mostly everyone.